I was busy today and I hurt my arm weeding. And I was only going to weed until it got too hot, but I weeded all of the front lilies instead, which was probably too much.
It’s Memorial Day and everyone is exhorting everyone else to remember those who died so that we could have this freedom. And I’m just not feeling it this year. I just keep thinking of the National Cemetery down in Chattanooga, those concrete boxes wet with rain, waiting for the earth to be scooped back so that they could be buried until needed. Which they will be.
Today on NPR they had a story about a guy trying to find some peace and healing in a sweat lodge. He feels like he’s become a monster because of the war and he would like his old self back.
I’m thinking about him, too.
And the next one, and the next.
I don’t know. To me gratefulness that doesn’t result in actual proper treatment for living service members and veterans isn’t really gratefulness.
We have a day to remember, but I just don’t see things in our society changing in ways that makes me think we actually do.
I don’t know, B. I have a serious issue with the construction ‘they died for our freedom’. One could make the heavily qualified argument that WWII became kind of a life-or-death struggle once it kicked off, but WWI and every involvement after WWII were all transparently optional and imperialistic adventures.* If you study the history of domestic political repression that surrounded WWI, for example, it’s difficult to reach any other conclusion than that our involvement in that war led directly and indirectly to less freedom and prosperity for the majority of U.S. citizens. Likewise, all our engagements since WWII have diverted material resources and political energy away from critical domestic needs and have helped foster political climates that made possible the curtailing of civil liberties.
So unless you’re a transnational venture capitalist or a more specific war profiteer, it’s difficult to say with any honesty that anyone serving in Iraq or Afghanistan is dying for your freedom. Papering over martial fetishization with bloody-shirt sentimentality doesn’t help any veterans, and it can be very potent and dangerous material for propaganda.
Case in point:
There’s also the issue that you bring up, of how we treat veterans like shit all year round, never mind the fucking holiday. My dad died after suffering a great deal of unnecessary pain for the last few years of his life because the VA wouldn’t let him go to the hospital two blocks from his home in SW Michigan to get treatment for his various ailments. They repeatedly forced him to make the four-hour drive (one way) to the nearest comprehensive VA medical facility (in Maywood, IL), and partly because of the prohibitive distance (and partly because of budget cuts), the care and follow-up he needed were often grossly inadequate. So, yeah, when I hear ‘support the troops’ all I can think of is ‘wake up and go fuck yourself’. They’re still treating veterans and active soldiers like shit, and the bullshit wars they’ve been fighting have most definitely not made anyone more free.
*I could add a laundry list of U.S. military interventions before WWI, such as our bloody conquest of the Philippines, our repeated interventions in Haiti and Cuba and the rest of Latin America, but there are only so many hours in the day.
“gratefulness that doesn’t result in actual proper treatment for living service members and veterans isn’t really gratefulness.”
No, it’s jingoism. Don’t know if you read Harper’s but this month’s issue has a really interesting essay on American nationalism.
I wish I’d have seen this poem yesterday.